Albert Ellis Interview With Gloria Essays

Today’s Students Evaluate Albert Ellis:
Technology, Era and Psychotherapy in Interplay

Joe Reilly
Veronica Jacobus
Drexel University

Abstract
     The Three Approaches to Psychotherapy (TAP) videotape series instructs today’s undergraduate and graduate students about major schools of psychological theory and practice. Students viewed the videotapes and were surveyed on five behavioral dimensions of each therapist, including their opinions of the client Gloria, and two production values of TAP. Results were consistent in that students were positively impressed with TAP, taking account of each therapist’s theoretical explanations; enactment of theories, respect for and interest in Gloria as a client; and if the student would recommend the therapist. This article focuses on our findings about Albert Ellis during his session with Gloria.

Today’s Students Evaluate Albert Ellis

     The videotape series Three Approaches to Psychotherapy (TAP) was released in 1965 (Dolliver, Williams & Gold, 1980; Ellis, 1986; Weinrach, 1986). TAP is routinely shown to undergraduate and graduate Psychology classes (Glauser & Bozarth, 2001; Kiesler & Goldston, 1988; Konrad & Yoder, 2000; Weinrach, 1986; Wickman & Campbell, 2003). TAP features three significant therapists who met individually for a brief session with a client identified only as “Gloria” (Bohart, 1991; Dolliver, Williams & Gold, 1980; Essig & Russell, 1990; Konrad & Yoder, 2000; Meara, Shannon & Pepinsky, 1979). Quantified research found these “experts” (Glauser & Bozarth, 2001; Wickman & Campbell, 2003) distinct from each other on important dimensions of communication patterns (Kiesler & Goldston, 1988). This is to be expected, given their wide difference in theory and practice (Essig & Russell, 1990; Meara, Shannon & Pepinsky, 1979).

     The popularity of cognitive psychology, in general, is a cause and effect of the work of Albert Ellis. He was very active in giving demonstrations of Rational-Emotive Therapy, now re-titled as Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, to large groups of  professionals for years. The practical philosophy and practice of Albert Ellis’ psychotherapy, which uses “logical, cognitive problem solving” (Gustavson, Cundick & Lambert, 1981), makes it appealing to many practitioners and clients. His lack of warmth for Gloria, especially in contrast to Rogers’ genuine concern for her emotional comfort, makes the Ellis session memorable for many viewers of TAP.

     Our interest in Albert Ellis is due to the unique status of his interactions with Gloria. Quantified research found his session to be the most distinctive, most polarized, and with least movement toward agreement of the three sessions (Mercier & Johnson, 1984). Ellis was the most active; gave the most information, direct guidance, and minimal encouragement; used closed questions; made specific restatements (Hill, Thames & Rardin, 1979); and primarily used interpretations and advisements (Gustavson, Cundick & Lambert, 1981). Ellis spoke more than Rogers or Perls, seemed more rushed than Rogers, and seemed as if he demonstrated his theory and practice for posterity rather than acting as he might in a natural setting (Ellis, 1986; Weinrach, 1986). He also focused narrowly on her irrational ideas (Essig & Russell, 1990). Ellis commented that he was, in retrospect, sexist in terminology and too hidebound in his session, particularly when he referred to Gloria as a “patient” rather than a “client” (Ellis, 1986). Gloria, on the other hand, may have been the most comfortable in her session with Ellis, balancing his “dominant-neutral” behavior with her “submissive” nature (Kiesler & Goldston, 1988).

     Gloria stated after the sessions that she had no idea of who the therapists were, yet when she met Ellis she stated that she had read “his book” (Ellis, 1986; Weinrach, 1986). Ellis later learned she had been in therapy with Everett Shostrom, the series’ host, for months and had completed therapy with Shostrom. Ellis has stated that this familiarity with psychotherapy contaminated his session (Ellis, 1986; Weinrach, 1986). This segment is unique within TAP and well worth examination for its singular characteristics.

     Several articles have been published about TAP’s various dimensions (Bohart, 1991; Dolliver, Williams & Gold, 1980; Ellis, 1986; Essig & Russell, 1990; Gustavson, Cundick & Lambert, 1981; Hill, Thames & Rardin, 1979; Kiesler & Goldston, 1988; Konrad & Yoder, 2000; Meara, Shannon & Pepinsky, 1979; Mercier & Johnson, 1984; Shostrom & Riley, 1968; Weinrach, 1986, 1990, 1991; Wickman & Campbell, 2003; Zimmer & Cowles, 1972). To an undergraduate student in the 21st century, TAP may seem quaint rather than informative. Our students grew up with state of the art network, cable, and film entertainment. The production values, social conventions, courtesies, and even the clothing of an earlier era might seem old-fashioned to the point of distraction to today’s young viewer. Such anachronisms might devaluate or eliminate any instructional value of a classroom medium such as the TAP film series. Even current classroom instruction routinely includes overhead projectors, power point presentations, videotapes, or compact disks.

     Psychotherapy was an unfamiliar experience to many Americans in 1965. In recent decades, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis (which are probably very similar or the same to many in the general public) have been dramatized and even mocked in television programs and films.  Today’s 24-hour news services and culture of “celebrity-as-friend” clearly decelerates the respect given an experienced, well-educated helping professional. Is a film series which is over 40 years old still useful for instruction of today’s media-savvy undergraduate students, many of whom are between 18 and 22 years old?

       Our investigation is on the relevance of the TAP sessions to our contemporary students. The questions listed below are inquires made about each therapist’s session with Gloria in Three Approaches to Psychotherapy.

Method

Participants
     A self-devised questionnaire was administered over two terms to four undergraduate Psychology sections.  These classes included two General Psychology sections, one section of Cognitive Psychology, and one section of Abnormal Psychology. A sample of 97 students viewed the entire TAP video series and voluntarily took part in the research study. Before administering the survey, a carefully selected five- minute sample of each interview was shown to ensure that students were reminded of the distinctions between each therapist.

 Measure
Two research groups were established; the two General Psychology sections were compared to the Advanced Psychology students, consisting of Cognitive Psychology and Abnormal Psychology courses. The questionnaire consisted of 22 items.  Five questions examined the behavioral dimensions of each therapist (Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls, and Albert Ellis), five questions analyzed Gloria, and two questions assessed the production values of the videotapes. The survey questioned particular aspects believed to be essential in representing the influence that the series has on students. We investigated students’ perceptions of how well they believed each therapist explained his theory, enacted his theory, respect in his treatment of Gloria, genuine interest in Gloria, and if the student would recommend the therapist. Students were asked to rate their answers using a five- point scale (1 for Strongly Disagree, 2 for Disagree, 3 for Neutral/ Not Applicable, 4 for Agree, 5 for Strongly Agree).

What is Psychotherapy - Psychology Matters

Results
     The findings were based on the five questions students answered about Albert Ellis.  Students rated the following questions based on the five-point scale: Albert Ellis explained his theory well; Albert Ellis treated Gloria well; Albert Ellis enacted his theory well; Albert Ellis seemed genuinely interested in Gloria; and I would recommend Albert Ellis as a therapist.  The findings were consistent in one direction, being generally positive. Responses were largely favorable toward Albert Ellis in Three Approaches to Psychotherapy. Evaluations were made from the questionnaires and are summarized in Tables 1 through 5. 

     For Question #1, “Albert Ellis explained his theory well”, 90% of the General Psychology students and 82% of the Cognitive Psychology and Abnormal Psychology students answered Agree or Strongly Agree in this area.
Only 7% of the sample disagreed with Ellis’ treatment of Gloria; 5% of the General Psychology students and 2% of the advanced Psychology students were of the same opinion. None of the students disagreed with this statement.

     For Question #2, “Albert Ellis treated Gloria respectfully,” 74% of the General Psychology students and 89% of the advanced section students answered Agree or Strongly Agree in this area. Only 7% of the sample disagreed with Ellis’ treatment of Gloria; 5% of the General Psychology students and 2% of the advanced Psychology students.

     For Question #3 “Albert Ellis enacted his theory well,” 86% of the introductory sections’ students and 85% of the Abnormal Psychology or Cognitive Psychology students chose Agree or Strongly Agree.  Of the four sections, 2% of the General Psychology sections did not believe that he enacted his theory well.

     For Question #4 “Albert Ellis seemed genuinely interested in Gloria,” Agree and Strongly Agree rankings were given by 83% of the General Psychology students and 85% of the advanced sections’ students.  On the contrary, 6% of the students found Ellis was not genuinely interested in Gloria and answered with Disagree.

     For Question #5 “I would recommend Albert Ellis as a therapist,” ratings of “Agree” and “Strongly Agree” equaled 83% of the General Psychology sections’ students. Only 72% of the students in the advanced sections registered “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” opinions.  Overall, 10% of the sample would not recommend Albert Ellis as a therapist.  This was evenly divided between General and Advanced Psychology sections.

Discussion
     Positive findings are valuable to gauge the effectiveness of this instructional tool. Ellis stated his therapeutic techniques changed after 1965 (Ellis, 1986). Perhaps TAP could be improved by a revised explanation. In addition, the wooden on-screen introductions and summation by Everett Shostrom, the series host, might benefit from an updated explanation of time and place.

     It also seems each of the TAP therapists treated Gloria in a manner which appears to be sexist to some contemporary professionals (Ellis, 1986; Konrad & Yoder, 2000). While they may have been unaware of their actions at the time of filming, today’s helping professionals understand nonsexist counseling is essential to the training and growth of effective counselors and the therapeutic process as a whole (Moore & Strickler, 1980). Possibly students hold a similar view since the highest percentages of students disagreed with Ellis’ treatment of Gloria, his genuine interest in her, and whether or not they would recommend Ellis as a therapist.

Albert Ellis & 'Gloria'

     This student population found the Three Approaches to Psychotherapy (TAP) videotape of Albert Ellis to be very instructive. Combined rankings for the positive choices of Agree and Strongly Agree received a low response of 73% to an exceptionally high level of 90%. This early cultural artifact of psychotherapy, in an artificial setting and brief timeframe, seems efficient in presenting this essential material to today’s media-wise undergraduate students.  Despite the passage of years since TAP was filmed, this historical documentary of psychotherapy’s 20th century theory and practice remains important, if only for its historical snapshot of these eminent therapist-practitioners and their development as of 1965. 

     The discipline would find it very beneficial for similar recordings to be made of contemporary therapist-practitioners in these schools, as well as others, to establish and maintain an ongoing record of psychotherapy’s development.

References

Bohart, A. C. 1991. The missing 249 words: In search of objectivity. Psychotherapy, 28(3), 497-506.

Dolliver, R. H., Williams, E. L., & Gold, D. C. 1980. The art of gestalt therapy or: What are you doing with your feet now? Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 17(2), 136-142.

Ellis, A. E. 1986. Comments on Gloria. Psychotherapy, 23(4), 647-648.

Essig, T. S., & Russell, R. L. 1990. Analyzing subjectivity in therapeutic discourse: Rogers, Perls, Ellis, and Gloria Revisited. Psychotherapy, 27(2), 271-281.

Glauser, A. S., & Bozarth, J. D. 2001. Person-centered counseling: The culture within. Journal of Counseling and Development, 79(2), 142-147.

Gustavson, J. L., Cundick, B. P., & Lambert, M. J. 1981. Analysis of observers’ responses to the Rogers, Perls, and Ellis films. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 53, 759-764.

Hill, C. E., Thames, T. B., & Rardin, D. K. 1979. Comparison of Rogers, Perls, and Ellis on the Hill Counselor Verbal Response Category System. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 26(3), 198-203.

Kiesler, D. J., & Goldston, C. S. 1988. Client-therapist complementarity: An analysis of the Gloria films. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 35(2), 127-133.

Konrad, J. L., & Yoder, J. D. 2000. Adding feminist therapy to videotape demonstrations. Teaching of Psychology, 27(1), 57-58.

Moore, H., & Strickler, C. 1980. The counseling profession’s response to sex-biased counseling: An update.  Personnel and Guidance Journal, October, 84-87.

Meara, N. M., Shannon, J. W., & Pepinsky, H. B. 1979. Comparison of the stylistic complexity of the language of counselor and client across three theoretical orientations. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 26(3), 181-189.

Mercier, M. A., & Johnston, M. 1984. Representational system predicate use and convergence in counseling: Gloria revisited. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 31(2), 161-169.

Shostrom, E. L. (Producer & Director). 1965. Three approaches to psychotherapy. {Film}. (Available from Psychological and Educational Films, 3334 East Coast Highway, Suite 252, Corona Del Mar, California 92625).

Shostrom, E. L., & Riley, C. M. D. 1968. Parametric analysis of psychotherapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 32(6), 628-632.

Weinrach, S. G. 1986. Ellis and Gloria: Positive or negative model? Psychotherapy, 23(4), 642-647.

Weinrach, S. G. 1990. Rogers and Gloria: The controversial film and the enduring relationship. Psychotherapy, 27(2), 282-290.

Weinrach, S. G. 1991. Rogers’ encounter with Gloria: What did Rogers know and when? Psychotherapy, 28(3), 504-506.

Wickman, S. A., & Campbell, C. 2003. An analysis of how Carl Rogers enacted client-centered conversation with Gloria. Journal of Counseling and Development, 81, 178-184.

Zimmer, J. M., & Cowles, K. H. 1972. Content analysis using FORTRAN: Applied to interviews conducted by C. Rogers, F. Perls, and A. Ellis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 19(2), 161-166.

Author’s Note

     Dr. Joe Reilly is Assistant Teaching Professor in the Behavioral Sciences of The Goodwin College of Professional Studies of Drexel University where he teaches courses in Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology.

     Veronica Jacobus, a volunteer research assistant, is a graduate of Drexel University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology.

     If interested in this article please contact the authors at The Goodwin College of Professional Studies of Drexel University, One Drexel Plaza, 3001 Market Street, Suite 100, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104 or Dr. Reilly at jar32@drexel.edu


QUESTION 1:  Albert Ellis explained his theory well


Table 1
 1
Strongly Disagree
2
Disagree
3
Neutral
4
Agree
5
Strongly Agree
 Totals
General Psychology Students004221642
       
Percentage
of Students
(Rounded)
0%0%10%52%38%100%
Advanced Psychology Students0010242155
       
Percentage
of Students
(Rounded)
0%0%18%44%38%100%

QUESTION 2:  Albert Ellis treated Gloria respectfully


Table 2
 1
Strongly Disagree
2
Disagree
3
Neutral
4
Agree
5
Strongly Agree
 Totals
General Psychology Students029161542
       
Percentage
of Students
(Rounded)
0%5%21%38%36%100%
Advanced Psychology Students015341555
       
Percentage
of Students
(Rounded)
0%2%9%62%27%100%

QUESTION 3:  Albert Ellis enacted his theory well


Table 3
 1
Strongly Disagree
2
Disagree
3
Neutral
4
Agree
5
Strongly Agree
 Totals
General Psychology Students015261042
       
Percentage
of Students
(Rounded)
0%2%12%62%24%100%
Advanced Psychology Students008291855
       
Percentage
of Students
(Rounded)
0%0%15%53%32%100%

QUESTION 4:  Albert Ellis seemed genuinely interested in Gloria


Table 4
 1
Strongly Disagree
2
Disagree
3
Neutral
4
Agree
5
Strongly Agree
 Totals
General Psychology Students016221342
       
Percentage
of Students
(Rounded)
0%2%15%52%31%100%
Advanced Psychology Students116331455
       
Percentage
of Students
(Rounded)
2%2%11%60%25%100%

QUESTION 5:  I would recommend Albert Ellis as a therapist


Table 5
 1
Strongly Disagree
2
Disagree
3
Neutral
4
Agree
5
Strongly Agree
 Totals
General Psychology Students025251042
       
Percentage
of Students
(Rounded)
0%5%12%59%24%100%
Advanced Psychology Students1212241655
       
Percentage
of Students
(Rounded)
2%3%22%44%29%100%

Recently I posted a film clip that is known to most psychology or mental health counseling graduate students. This clip showed the famous psychologist who invented Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Albert Ellis, working for about half an hour with “Gloria.” This was one of the counseling sessions in the Dr. Everett Shostrum educational film officially titled Three Approaches to Psychotherapy (1964), but commonly referred to as The Gloria Films. In this film the viewer can watch Gloria, a real person (not an actress) discussing her real issues (centered around being sensitive to her young daughter while dating again after a divorce) with Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls, and Albert Ellis:

These film clips are justifiably famous for providing privileged glimpses of the founders of person-centered therapy, Gestalt therapy, and REBT at work with the same person. But how did they do? And who exactly was Gloria? How were Gloria and her daughter affected by these counseling sessions?

Moreira, Goncalves, and Matlas (2011) analyzed this film to assess which therapist did best at eliciting Gloria’s narrative explanation of her own life, as measured by narrative structure, narrative process, and narrative content. Unsurprisingly, the collaborative, person-centered approach of Carl Rodgers elicited Gloria’s highest narrative score, while the highly cognitive Albert Ellis obtained a narrative score about 20% lower, and the acerbic Fritz Perls was about 25% lower than Rogers. Although many factors may have contributed to this outcome, it seems reasonable to have expected that Rogers’ collaborative approach would yield this result.

The client in this film was Gloria Szymanski. She was 31 years old when the sessions were filmed; she had been through a divorce six years earlier, and her daughter, Pammy, was in the fourth grade at the time  Gloria married again in 1968, and divorced ten years later. She died of leukemia at the age of 46. Gloria’s daughter, Pamela Burry, later published a book entitled, Living with the Gloria Films, A daughter’s memory.

Shortly after the counseling sessions were filmed, Gloria was asked by the film’s producer which therapist she could benefit from the most, and she responded that Fritz Perls “could be the most valuable to me.” This seemed ironic, because Perls’ questioning of Gloria was very confrontational, and easily could be seen as demeaning. Albert Ellis and others later asserted that Gloria was negatively affected by her session with Perls, and that her initial response in favor of Perls was coerced by Shostrum, who was a Gestalt therapist. In fact, it turns out that Gloria had been a client of Shostrum’s, raising the possibility that her participation in the film could have been coerced.

Gloria attended a conference as a guest of Rogers a year or so after the film was released, and it has been reported that she addressed the attendees after they watched the film and decried Perls’ aggressive questioning.

Gloria corresponded with Rogers for many years after the film was made, and to his credit Rogers has declined to share much about what was communicated. Shortly before she died, Gloria is reported to have said to her daughter, “Believe half of what you see, and none of what you hear.”

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About Jim Alves

Hello! I'm a graduate student getting a degree in mental health counseling at Florida State University and I'm creating this blog as part of a class assignment. I'm enjoying this quite a bit and if you happen to come across this site I hope you find some information that is interesting to you. There are a couple of themes in this blog. First is the type of counseling I am interested in - - narrative-existential counseling. Second is technology issues (because that's the focus of the class. And finally there are legal issues, because I've been a lawyer for many years.

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